FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons offensive players were unaware that the Buffalo Bills had just 10 defenders on the field during their final fourth-and-1 play where Matt Ryan's pass to Taylor Gabriel sailed incomplete.
"Me myself, no, I didn't know they only had 10 defenders," Gabriel said Monday.
The Bills actually called a timeout prior to the play and appeared to have 11 men on the field. Then after the timeout, they came back with just 10. However, the Falcons didn't take advantage as the Bills survived in a 23-17 win.
"I did not know that," center Alex Mack said of the Bills playing with 10. "It does [bother] me. I didn't know that one. Well, those 10 played well."
Said left tackle Jake Matthews, "Oh, I didn't notice that. No. Anytime you lose it sucks, though. That can't really make it that much worse. We just didn't get it done."
Ryan said he had a couple options on the play, including running back Tevin Coleman, who was lined up behind fullback Derrick Coleman. Picking up one yard with 49 seconds remaining in regulation would have given the Falcons another set of downs and time to score a touchdown, even without any timeouts remaining. But Ryan said he saw the Bills loading the box despite the missing defender, which is why the play-action pass was executed. It appeared as if the Bills had just a seven-man front, but the look could have been deceiving.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said he counted 10 Bills defenders after watching the film.
"I think that's why possibly we thought it was blitz where in that moment, is it best to throw the slant?," Quinn explained. "And those are the kinds of plays, when you have opportunity for a quick pass against blitz, you love the looks. When you don't go that way, you have to go to the second or third [option]. And they made a good play on it.
"Looking back, yeah, that was a bummer. I was the turning point in the game for us to go, but there were many moments in the game that I thought we missed our opportunities. But that one was certainly one."